September 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 5 
Cover Story

A well of hope

Source of clean water sustains communities, schools in South Africa

A well of hopeIn the northern part of South Africa lies the province of Limpopo, home of beautiful forests and grasslands. Yet it's also an area that has some of the nation's hottest temperatures and inconsistent rainfall.

The heat can play havoc on families and communities, especially in rural areas where students attend schools an hour or two from any town. Worried parents know their children will need to compete for higher-skilled jobs in an economy recovering from policies of the past.

Yet in a typical rural Limpopo school, there is no running water. Rising temperatures not only can disrupt the concentration of students and teachers, but it also can force the school day to be curtailed, if not canceled, because of a lack of water. That shortage also limits the use of the few toilets that are installed. Remaining options are inconvenient pit latrines that require expensive chemicals for sanitation.

In March 2001, Boeing opened its South Africa office, connecting the countries of southern and east Africa. A Ghana office also opened, linking west and central Africa. The goal of Boeing Africa is to build strong relationships between Boeing and government, business and community leaders on the continent.

Boeing Africa's community projects focused on two areas: education and health. Among the organizations supported by Boeing Africa that assist in these areas is the Water for Schools Project, which helps schools in Limpopo build wells for clean water. The organization requires participating schools to raise a quarter of the money needed to bore a well and supply the accompanying hardware such as a pump and tanks-before outside donations are added. "Local involvement helps sustainability," said Janet Parkin, board member and administrator of Water for Schools.

Since this project started three years ago, Boeing has been the largest contributor, sponsoring wells at 11 schools so far.The water is used not only for drinking and sanitary facilities, but it's also used for hands-on instruction in gardening and farming.

Some school gardens supply vegetables for school lunch programs, Parkin said. Others sell extra produce to raise money for the school. "With a better learning environment," Parkin said, "some of the schools have found an increase in the pass rate." The entire region benefits when school principals can raise money selling surplus water to parents after school hours-leading to healthier community gardens and livestock.

Kuseni Maluleke, principal of Hanyani Secondary School, said to Boeing: "You have given us health for our communities, a future for our students and hope for all those yet to start school."

-Isaac Nkama


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